My dear friend,
I thank you for your letter and for what it contained.
I feel sad that even if successful, painting won’t bring in what it costs.
I was touched by what you wrote about home – ‘they’re doing quite well, but it’s sad to see them nevertheless’. But a dozen years ago or so one would have sworn that the family would continue to prosper after all, and that things would work out well. It would please our mother greatly if your marriage came off,1 and for your health and business affairs you shouldn’t remain single anyway.
Myself — I feel I’m losing the desire for marriage and children, and at times I’m quite melancholy to be like that at 35 when I ought to feel quite differently. And sometimes I blame this damned painting.  1v:2
It was Richepin who said somewhere

the love of art makes us lose real love.2

I find that terribly true, but on the other hand real love puts you right off art.
And sometimes I already feel old and broken, but still sufficiently in love to stop me being enthusiastic about painting.
To succeed you have to have ambition, and ambition seems absurd to me. I don’t know what will come of it. Most of all, I’d like to be less of a burden to you — and that’s not impossible from now on. Because I hope to make progress in such a way that you’ll be able to show what I’m doing, with confidence, without compromising yourself.
And then I’m going to retreat to somewhere in the south so as not to see so many painters who repel me as men.
You can be sure of one thing, and that’s that I won’t try to do any more work for the Tambourin.3 I think it’s going to change hands, too, and of course I’m not against that.4  1v:3
As far as Miss Segatori is concerned, that’s another matter altogether, I still feel affection for her and I hope she still feels some for me.
But now she’s in an awkward position, she’s neither free nor mistress in her own house, and most of all, she’s sick and ill. Although I wouldn’t say so in public — I’m personally convinced she’s had an abortion (unless of course she had a miscarriage) — whatever the case, in her situation I wouldn’t blame her.
In two months she’ll be better, I hope, and then perhaps she’ll be grateful that I didn’t bother her.
Mind you, if she were to refuse in good health and in cold blood to give me back what’s mine, or did me any kind of harm, I wouldn’t be easy on her — but that won’t be necessary.
But I know her well enough still to trust her.  1r:4
And there again, if she manages to keep her place going, from the commercial point of view I wouldn’t blame her for preferring to be the one who eats and not the one who gets eaten. If she stepped on my toes a bit in order to succeed — if need be — she has carte blanche.
When I saw her again she didn’t hurt my feelings, which she would have done if she was as nasty as people say she is.
I saw Tanguy yesterday and he put a canvas I had just done in his window,5 I’ve done four since you left, and I have a big one on the go.6 I’m well aware that these big, long canvases are hard to sell, but in time people will see that there’s open air and good cheer in them. Now the whole lot will make a decoration for a dining room or a house in the country.
And if you really fell in love and then got married, I wouldn’t think it impossible that you too might manage to get hold of a house in the country, like so many other picture dealers. If you live well you spend more, but you also gain more ground, and perhaps these days we do better if we look rich than if we look hard up. It’s better to have fun than to kill yourself. Warm regards to all at home.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 575 | CL: 462
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Paris, between about Saturday, 23 and about Monday, 25 July 1887

1. Visiting the Bonger family in Amsterdam, on Friday, 22 July 1887 Theo asked Jo Bonger to marry him. She was taken utterly by surprise by this proposal, and anyway she was in love with someone else, so she turned him down. On 25 July 1887 she wrote in her diary: ‘Friday a day full of emotion. At two in the afternoon the doorbell rang: Van Gogh from Paris. I was pleased he’d come, I imagined I’d be talking to him about art and literature. I received him pleasantly and then he suddenly began to make me a declaration. It would sound improbable in a novel, and yet it is the case that having known me for no more than 3 days [Theo had also seen her in 1885 and 1886] he wants to spend his whole life with me, he wants ... to put all his happiness in my hands. And I’m so terribly sorry that I’ve had to cause him pain. He’s been looking forward to coming here all year and pictured so much to himself, and now it ends like this. What a sad mood he will be in as he goes back to Paris’ (FR b4550).
2. It has not been possible to discover where Jean Richepin said this. In his introduction to La chanson des Gueux (1876) he does talk about ‘the freedom of Art’ (la liberté de l’Art’) and the fatal impact on art when justice controls literature: to him art and morality are two different worlds. See ed. Marcel Paquet. Giromagny 1990. Also cited in letter 632.
3. For Le Tambourin and the works Van Gogh exhibited there, see letter 571, nn. 2 and 3. One of the pieces that Van Gogh had recently painted for the restaurant was probably Basket of pansies(F 244 / JH 1093), in which the flowers stand on a small table shaped like a tambourine. See cat. Amsterdam 2011.
4. It has not been possible to establish exactly when or to whom Segatori transferred her business. See further letter 571, n. 3.
5. This was possibly the riverscape from Asnières which Van Gogh said that Tanguy had in his possession in a letter of July 1888; see letter 637, n. 2.
6. One of the four works was the painting in the window (n. 5 above). It is not possible to say for certain which other works he is talking about; they were probably landscapes from Asnières.
The large canvas Van Gogh says he has in hand was probably Montmartre: behind the Moulin de la Galette (F 316 / JH 1246 [2549]), 81 x 100 cm, the first of his two large canvases of Montmartre (the other one, Vegetable gardens in Montmartre (F 350 / JH 1245 [2548]), 96 x 120 cm, was painted shortly afterwards). Garden with courting couples: square Saint-Pierre (F 314 / JH 1258 [2551]), 75.5 x 113 cm) does not qualify because it dates from mid-May. See cat. Amsterdam 2011.
[2549] [2548] [2551]